When Hurricanes Irma and Maria brought damaging winds to Puerto Rico in 2017, many people struggled to survive without electricity.
And even in the absence of a hurricane, the power can be unreliable in rural parts of the island. At her home in Utuado, Alison Mason has an off-grid solar system. But she says her neighbors’ homes often go dark during the rainy season.
“My neighbors sometimes lose all of the food they had stored in their refrigerator,” she says. “Meanwhile, we don’t even notice when there’s a power outage.”
Mason wants others to have the same peace of mind. So she’s co-founded Barrio Eléctrico, a nonprofit that works with community groups to recruit residents who want to install solar and battery systems.
Barrio Eléctrico and its partners oversee the financing and installation of the systems, and then lease them to residents.
Mason says the leases cost roughly the same as what people pay the utility, so they’re accessible to residents who cannot afford to buy solar panels.
Barrio Eléctrico is working to prove its model with a 10-home pilot program in Caguas.
And Mason plans to expand from there, so more people in Puerto Rico can keep the lights on, even as the weather gets more extreme.
Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media